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An African Safari – Day 15 – Arrival in Victoria Falls

Waking up the day after being at Hwange National Park meant that we were on our way to Victoria Falls in north western Zimbabwe.  I was keen to take in this location as part of our trip as the falls are classed as the largest sheet of falling water on earth being 1708m wide and 108m in height, which is twice the height of Niagara falls, so I knew they were not to be missed.  The falls divide two separate countries with Zambia being on one side and Zimbabwe the other.  So, after yet another early start we were on the final leg of our trip now and headed to our last location which was the town of Victoria Falls for 2 nights.  It wasn’t a long journey from Hwange to the falls and after a quick stop for ‘bushy bushy’ we arrived early afternoon and were dropped off at Wild Horizons tour office to decide what activities we wanted to do whilst Matt and Freddie headed to the nearby campsite.

Our ever-present and faithful guide, Manda, came with us to the tour office to ensure all went smoothly and we got our bookings done after watching a video of all things on offer.  There was bungee jumping, gorge swing, white water rafting, micro light flights, game drives, riverboat cruises, elephant back rides, horse riding, helicopter tours, bush walks, canoeing – you name it, it was there.  A number of us opted for the late afternoon ‘booze cruise’.  If you’re imagining one of those boats from the Ibiza summer parties then your average booze cruise this was not.  This was to be a much more subdued and leisurely affair of sipping drinks whilst cruising up the Zambezi river at sunset whilst absorbing the sights and sounds.  ‘Yes…’ I thought, rubbing my hands together with glee, ‘Now I get to sip my favourite beverage whilst also getting photo opportunities…’  I was also looking forward to a bloody good shower and being able to rid my feet of Africa’s constant sand (really, it is everywhere and not just near the coast) and for a chance to get a bit dressed up for the first time in what felt like an age!  So, after our booze cruise and my activity for the following day was booked (which was white water rafting but more on that in my next post) we headed to our hotel to get ready.  Yes, we were headed to an actual hotel.  It felt really odd being near civilisation, albeit quite limited, and seeing lots of other people.  For days and days we had been touring in the wilderness across national parks and endless dusty roads and now we were back in amongst people out-with the small family that was our tour group.

We had already pre-booked our hotel room but Kathy and Dave had not and, since they had upgraded to lodge accommodation throughout the trip like myself and mum, I think they were keen to join us at the hotel and make good use of the AC and comfy beds.  The rest of our travellers were staying at the campsite a 5 minute walk away from our hotel.  After we were showered and ready we waited in the hotel reception waiting to be picked up by Wild Horizons to be taken to the river to begin our sunset cruise at 430pm.  Joining us were some of our fellow tour members: Pam, Pete and Manuella as well as Kathy and Dave.

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We boarded a mini bus and were driven the short distance to the river where we boarded a wide, flat river boat and all sat together as we lazily glided up the Zambezi towards the setting sun.  The waiters were attentive and didn’t take long to hop on over and take our order, it was G&T’s all-round and doubles no less.  Well, you’ve got to take full advantage of the price, don’t you?  For the 2 hour cruise along with unlimited drinks it was $50 which I thought was pretty reasonable.  I think we were all grateful for a chance to relax, chat and enjoy some gin after 2 weeks of solid touring – it was quite the novelty.

Along the river we spotted giraffe feeding on tall trees, various birds wading through the shallow waters then we came across this guy peeking out from the water’s edge…He was a youngster at only 4 or 5 feet long…

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And these lovely ladies were keeping themselves cool in the deeper water occasionally rising to the surface to twitch their ears and yawn…

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For me, hippos immediately conjure memories of watching Disney’s ‘Fantasia‘ as a child.  In particular, the scene where the hippos are the most delicate of ballerinas playing a game of cat and mouse with dastardly crocodiles…and here was the real thing!  Except with, you know, less tutus and classical music…

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After we’d been in the boat for an hour or so (and a good few double gins later) the sun started to descend towards the horizon and gave us probably the most beautiful sunset we’d seen the entire trip.  Remember what I said about those African sunsets whilst at Hwange?  Well, they were equally as dazzling on the water.  The sky was a brilliant fiery orange at first with the sun’s reflection shimmering on the water and as it gradually came down towards the trees it melted into a baby pink and faded into sumptuous lilac.  For a short time you could just see the top of the sun peeking out from above the horizon before it disappeared again until morning.

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Now that we were all suitably merry after our double G&T’s, we were off to meet the others for a meal to celebrate our last evening together as a group.  There was a restaurant next to the campsite where we met and got fired into some of the local cuisine including crocodile and mushroom tagliatelle, warthog schnitzel and crocodile curry.  Even though I did try some of these that the others had ordered I played it safe and had a chicken salad.  I had a big day ahead of me the next day as I was getting picked up at 7am to head off on a white water rafting trip along the lower Zambezi.  Looking back, I’m not entirely convinced that we were told exactly what was involved and how extreme it would be but that all added to the anticipation…

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An African Safari – Day 4 – Game Drive at Kruger National Park – Part 2

Continuing on from my last post and our game drive through Kruger, once through the gate we stopped for an hour for lunch at a camp restaurant before we hit the road again this time in search of lions…By this point in the afternoon the sun was beginning to peek through the clouds.  The temperature was pleasant, kept so by the constant breeze of our moving jeep, but when you came to a standstill the midday heat became apparent and layers had to be shed.  Near an open area next to the road we clocked two female lions in the distance lying beneath a tree snoozing.  There was a very small waterhole to the right of them to which a male impala approached.  He was downwind of them and it didn’t take him long before he was alert and conscious that a predator was nearby.  He took a few tentative steps towards the water every few minutes cautiously watching the lions.  He needn’t have worried as only one of them raised her head before she lay down again to resume her nap.  He thought better of it though and sprung off in the opposite direction.
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As we carried further along the road, we came across a large adult male giraffe striding towards a large tree.  He stopped to wrap his tongue around the fine branches and strip them of their leaves to assuage his hunger.  He then gave me a great chance to photograph him as he strode out from under the tree and crossed the road in front of us.  He manged this in about 3 strides, his gait being wide and long.  He was so tall I struggled to get him in one frame!  He ambled off into the bush in search of more food.  A short distance along the same road, with the dried up riverbed on our left, there was a large flat and smooth outcrop of rock.  Sitting out in the afternoon heat atop the rock was a lioness!  She was lying down facing us with her left paw across her body, struggling in the searing sun.  I asked myself why she would sit out in the heat like that but as we looked closer behind her we noticed her small pride resting beneath a tree in the shade taking respite from the heat.  As we looked to the right of them was a very large male made conspicuous by his sandy coloured bushy mane, sitting on all fours.  Our guide advised us that the lone lioness on the rock was keeping watch whilst the others took their rest.  He also said that they would take it in turns so at no point was the pride vulnerable. Clever lions.  We watched them for a good 20 minutes or so but with the heat now at its most intense there was no likelihood of their movement so we went back the way we came and travelled further along the sandy road.

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Over the remainder of the afternoon we saw more kudu, impala, birds of various colours and sizes including African fish-eagle, brown snake-eagle, vultures, yellow billed hornbill, magpie shrike and the African hoopoe (my personal favourite for its unusual tuft of feathers on its head and also its unique call which you can listen to here).  We also came across more lone bull elephants as well as seeing herds in the distance, slow moving grey masses amidst the camouflage-coloured landscape. We also saw more white rhino which is reassuring when you hear so many horror stories of the poaching that goes on.  It’s a lifelong dream fulfilled to see this wildlife in its natural habitat and nothing quite prepares you for the excitement at spotting these animals only metres away from you.

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As the sun moved round we made our way to Crocodile Bridge to meet up with Manda, Freddie, Matt and ‘Wasabi’ our affectionately named truck.  It was all aboard again for another hour of driving towards our next accommodation.  Freddie made us the most amazing spaghetti bolognaise of my life that evening, that boy can cook!  After dinner we chatted and relaxed in the lounge area and Kiel brought out his newly purchased guitar so, naturally, we all had a sing-song as he strummed away and played classics such as ‘A Horse with No Name’ and ‘Wonderwall’.  Hailey was on lead vocals backed up by us.  I headed to bed pretty early though as the next day was a very long drive to cross over into Mozambique…

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